Aug 012008

VLANs on Linux

An introduction to VLANs and VLAN trunking, how Linux interacts with VLANs and how you might use them in networks.
To begin, we must have a more formal definition of what a LAN is. LAN stands for local area network. Hubs and switches usually are thought of as participating in a single LAN. Normally, if you connect two computers to the same hub or switch, they are on the same LAN. Likewise, if you connect two switches together, they are both on the same LAN.
A LAN includes all systems in the broadcast domain. That is, all of the systems on a single LAN receive a broadcast sent by any member of that LAN. By this definition, a LAN is bordered by routers or other devices that operate at OSI Layer 3.
Now that we’ve defined a LAN, what is a VLAN? VLAN stands for virtual LAN. A single VLAN-capable switch is able to participate in multiple LANs at once.
This functionality alone has a variety of uses, but VLANs become far more interesting when combined with trunking. A trunk is a single physical connection that can carry multiple VLANs. Each frame that crosses the trunk has a VLAN identifier attached to it, so it can be identified and kept within the correct VLAN.
Trunks can be used between two switches, between a switch and a router or between a switch and a computer that supports trunking. When connecting to a router or computer, each VLAN appears as a separate virtual interface.
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